Clinton’s response to Black Lives Matter disruption smacks of arrogance, bad faith

In Politics by Jamie Peck / February 25, 2016

As the Hillary Clinton campaign chugs merrily along, talking about all the things Clinton II will do to end racism and over-policing in America, some have wondered: When is someone going to hold madame secretary responsible for all the racist things she said and did as recently as 2008?

The answer, of course, is that it’s already been happening, but never as visibly or confrontationally as it happened Wednesday night and into Thursday.

At a private campaign event in South Carolina Wednesday night, two Black Lives Matter activists, who paid $500 for admission, interrupted Clinton’s talk with a banner bearing a quote from a 1996 speech she gave in support of policies like the Crime Bill, which was signed into law by her husband in 1994. The activist speaking is named Ashley Williams; the other wishes to remain anonymous.

In the video you can see Clinton look at the banner, then quickly shut down when she realizes what it says. Here’s a transcript of the exchange via Real Clear Politics, with my annotations in italics:

HILLARY CLINTON: I think we’ve got somebody saying [something] here, have you? “Bring them to heel?”

ASHLEY WILLIAMS, #BLACKLIVESMATTER: We want you to apologize for mass incarceration. I’m not a super-predator, Hillary Clinton.

CLINTON: Okay fine, we’ll talk about it.

WILLIAMS: Will you apologize to black people for mass incarceration?

CLINTON: Well, can I talk, and then maybe you can listen to what I say. Fine. Thank you very much.

[audible hissing from mostly white crowd]

[security guy looks like he’s going to kick them out, then backs off]

There are a lot of issues in this campaign. The very first speech that I gave back in April was about criminal justice reform.

WILLIAMS: You called black people “Super-Predators.”

UNIDENTIFIED FUNDRAISER ATTENDEE: You’re being inappropriate, that’s rude.

WILLIAMS: She called black people “super predators,” that is rude.

CLINTON: Do you want to hear the facts or do you just want to talk?

WILLIAMS: I know that you called black people “super predators” in 1994 [it was actually 1996], please explain it to us. You owe black people an apology.

UNIDENTIFIED FUNDRAISER ATTENDEE: That is inappropriate.

CLINTON: If you give me a chance to talk, I’ll come to your side … You know what! Nobody’s every asked me [this] before. You’re the first person to ask me and I am happy to address it. But you are the first person to ask me. [as Williams is ushered out by the Secret Service] Now, back to the issues.

Williams released a statement in advance of the event explaining the ideas behind her direct action. Via HuffPost:

Hillary Clinton has a pattern of throwing the Black community under the bus when it serves her politically,” Williams said in a statement before the event. “She called our boys ‘super-predators’ in ’96, then she race-baited when running against Obama in ‘08, now she’s a lifelong civil rights activist. I just want to know which Hillary is running for President, the one from ’96, ’08, or the new Hillary?

This is hardly the first action of its kind; Black Lives Matter activists have previously interrupted campaign events given by Bernie Sanders and (duh) Donald Trump. But this interruption feels more personal and serious than any that’s come before.

When BLM interrupted the Sanders rally, they wanted a platform to talk about the issues plaguing their community. Sanders shook hands with them, then stood aside and let them speak. While he felt that interruption to be “disappointing,” he has been listening to Black Lives Matter ever since, and has incorporated a number of additional measures addressing systemic racism into his platform.

In contrast, this action confronted Clinton directly with her own words and actions and demanded a reckoning, which she refused to provide. On the contrary, her behavior during this telling unscripted exchange has more than a whiff of “you should be grateful for all the things I’ve done for you” about it. Not to mention, her statement at the end — that she’d never been confronted with this question before — might be narrowly true, but barely. In August she did a great job dodging a similar reckoning when questioned by Black Lives Matter in a private meeting. Maybe BLM was being generous by not bringing up the “super-predators” thing in that meeting. Maybe their patience has worn thin since then.

And that’s not all. The wider internet has gotten involved via the #WhichHillary hashtag promoted on the activists’ banner. As with all things internet, some of it is sexist garbage, but a lot of it takes Hillary Clinton to task for her handling of Wednesday’s incident as well as her record of flip-flopping on issues of civil rights, gay rights, war mongering, campaign finance, rape victims’ rights, et al. As it turns out, some POC are not too happy about Clinton smugly referring to them as her “firewall.”

 

It will be interesting to see how this hashtag develops and what, if any, effect it has on voting patterns, particularly among minority voters.

[h/t Huffington Post]